After Ronnie James Dio was diagnosed with stomach cancer about 6 months ago fans speculated on his long term prognosis. It was generally accepted that stomach cancer was more often than not a fatal disease in short order, but most fans were hopeful that Ronnie would fall into that small percentage who live more than 5 years after the initial diagnosis.
Sadly, however, that was not to be. Ronnie died today at the age of 67.
He was a great singer, a great songwriter, and a great live performer. More importantly, however, he was a class act. He always treated his fans with kindness and respect, and he was well known for his charity work.
Here's something that shows just how much Ronnie grew as an artist over the years, and that also shows how he's always been good no matter what type of music he was playing. From 1963, this is Ronnie and the Prophets...
And from the very beginning of Ronnie's career, this is a teenage Ronnie and the Redcaps covering the Ray Charles classic...
There is a full album coming from Jorn, this is the only original track on it. The rest are Dio songs. That's really nice to see. Obviously, this has been in the works for a while - probably since the first announcement of Ronnie's cancer. Dio had a profound influence on a lot of artists, and obviously Jorn Lande felt the need to pay tribute to one of his biggest musical heroes. Good for him.
Here is an early Ronnie Dio composition (a great song for it's era)...
What strikes me most about his early material is just how well his voice worked with that kind of material. He had the voice and the songwriting ability to be a big star doing that kind of stuff, but luck and being in the right place at the right time have more to do with success than talent, so his time came later on. But he could have been huge in the late 50's through the 60's if the right management and label combination had come about.
Man, he was good.
Last Edit: May 23, 2010 21:24:03 GMT -5 by Erik Rupp
Well, I attended the Ronnie James Dio Public Memorial today, and all I can say is, "Wow!" What a moving tribute to the King of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal.
There was a packed 1,200 seat auditorium there at Forest Lawn in Hollywood, but not only that, there were several hundred people outside - in the hot sun - watching the event on a giant screen. The fans didn't want RJD to go quietly...
Ronnie's wife, Wendy, was in the front row, close to Ronnie's casket (which was covered by a HUGE bunch of red roses) and was constantly greeted with hugs and condolences. She got a lot of support, and that was nice to see.
The ceremony opened up with longtime DIO and Heaven & Hell keyboard player Scott Warren playing the DIO song, "This Is Your Life," on piano with no vocal accopanyment. He later stated that he just couldn't imagine anyone else singing it, so he rearranged it to play the vocal melody on the piano - and he did a fantastic job with it.
Eddie Trunk was the M.C. for the memorial ceremony, and he did a great job. As a longtime fan and friend of Ronnie's he was a great choice. Early on the fans chanted, "Di-o, Di-o, Di-o," during part of Eddie's comments (at an appropriate time), but that would not be the last time they would do so (there were probably 10 or 12 occasions where the fans would do so, sometimes at the urging of the person speaking at the podium).
There were several musical performances (done mostly acoustically, although there were a couple of songs where synth keyboards were used, and a one with a clean electric guitar), including ones by Claude Schnell & Oni Logan, Joey Belladonna, Paul Shortino, Geoff Tate, and Glenn Hughes. A number of musicans played whose names I did not get written down, but one who I knew right away was Rudy Sarzo. The final musical performance was by Glenn Hughes accompanied by Craig Goldy.
Also speaking at the event (and there were a lot of people who gave speeches) was a high school classmate and friend of Ronnie's (who never lost touch with him) named Harold Hyde. Harold had a great story to share: One night after a concert Harold got a call from a very excited Ronnie. Ronnie's excitement had nothing to do with the show - instead it was over what happened before the show. Ronnie had just flown in, and was greeted at the airport by a couple policemen. Ronnie had no idea what was going on at first, but by the time he arrived at a large water tower he had been filled in. There was a potential suicide jumper at the top, and the police specialist on scene was getting nowhere with the guy. But the guy was a fan of Dio, and so after the police learned that Ronnie was in town quickly brought him to the scene. Ronnie talked the guy down and saved his life. Ronnie was so glad - and excited - that he was able to help the guy that he had to call Harold and tell him about it. It was a great story.
Little known fact - Ronnie was senior class president at his high school and had been accepted to Julliard at 7 years old (as a trumpet player). Lots of little tid bits like that would be shared.
Also speaking was Ronnie's son, Daniel Padavona, who - as he himself noted, shares his father's height. Daniel's speech was moving, and he called on everyone there to declare war on cancer and to get checked regularly.
Ronnie's cousin, former Elf and Rods guitar player David "Rock" Fenstein spoke, as did Simon Wright, Scott Warren, and a bunch of people not known to the fans, but known to Ronnie (his overseas booking agent, his personal assistant - who had some great stories and some of Ronnie's jokes, his road manager, and more.
Craig Goldy and Paul Shortino both had moving speeches. Goldy told the story of how he was homeless and living out of his car while he was playing in Rough Cutt in San Diego, and how when Ronnie found out about it had Goldy move in with him. Shortino told a similar story of how Ronnie moved him in to help him out. Shortino, who was there to sing John Lennon's, "In My Life," broke down and got quite choked up when telling his story. He barely made it through the first verse of the song, but gained enough composure to make it through the rest fairly well.
Glenn Hughes spoke as well at one point before playing the Trapeze song, "Coast To Coast," which was a huge hit with the crowd (it was a great performance). Eddie Trunk had explained to the crowd just prior to turning it over to Hughes that he had asked Ronnie on his show one time who was Ronnie's favorite Rock singer and Ronnie immediately replied, "Glenn Hughes," without a moment's hesistation.
The crowd was vocal, but not too rowdy. The event had a near concert like atmosphere, but there was the surreal aspect that Ronnie was lying in that coffin in front of the stage. A few of the speakers mentioned it as if they had a hard time believing it themselves.
One of the crowd's reactions was very appropriate - when a video came on screen of Heaven and Hell from the Radio City Music Hall performance they sang loudly along as Ronnie urged the crowd on screen to sing, "Heaven and Hell." That was great. It wouldn't be the last time the crowd would sing or shout along with a live video clip.
An interesting fact that I wasn't aware of - Ronnie was sick when they did the Radio City Music Hall show for the DVD. And he still sounded great.
Ultimately, Ronnie's concern for other people may have cost him his life. As it turns out (according to both his son and his doctor, who also spoke), Ronnie did not go in to be tested when his symptoms first appeared. In fact, he waited until the pain became nearly unbearable, and by then (in a realistic sense) it was too late. Had he gone in earlier his chances would have been much better, but he was so concerned with letting other people down (the band and the fans) that he waited until well after the tour was over to get checked. (And even then he felt bad about having to cancel the DIO European tour last fall due to the cancer.)
The final musical performance was by Glenn Hughes and Craig Goldy, playing, "Catch the Rainbow."
Also noted was the new Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund. It will soon become a foundation promoting cancer screening, and providing funds for those unable to afford cancer check ups to get them done. There will be two memorial concerts (one in London, one in Los Angeles) in the fall to raise money for the foundation - and then there will be annual Ronnie James Dio memorial concerts to continue funding the foundation's work!
All in all it was a memorable 3 1/2 hours (it felt more like 2 1/2 - it flew by for the most part), and an event that no one there will ever forget.
Last Edit: May 31, 2010 8:11:58 GMT -5 by Erik Rupp